Medical Marijuana: A Dispensary Q-and-A

David Lipton is a lifelong Westporter. He’s part of Bluepoint Wellness, which this Thursday (April 19, 7 p.m., Town Hall) is on the Planning & Zoning Commission agenda for its applicaton to open a medical marijuana dispensary at the present site of Coco Spa, behind the old Pier One store at 1460 Post Road East.

Lipton is also CEO of Advanced Grow Labs. Based in West Haven, it’s one of 4 state-licensed producers of medical marijuana.

Officials have opened up a Request for Application for 3 to 10 new dispensaries statewide. They may or may not pick a Westport site. There are now 5 applications here.

Lipton offers this information about medical marijuana dispensaries not to advance his own application, he says, but to explain the entire process.

Who can enter a medical marijuana dispensary?

To enter a medical marijuana dispensary in Connecticut you must be a registered patient with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection.

Who is the DCP?

The DCP is the regulatory agency that controls the medical marijuana program, as well as all food and drugs manufactured and sold in Connecticut.  They oversee licensing all patients and their caregivers, all dispensaries, all producers, and all employees at the dispensaries and producers.

How do you become a registered patient?

To be a registered patient you must be diagnosed with one of the following conditions:

Adults: Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, intractable spasticity, epilepsy, cachexia, wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, sickle cell disease, post-laminectomy syndrome, severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, complex regional pain syndrome, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, irreversible spinal cord injury, terminal illness requiring end of life care, and uncontrollable intractable seizure disorder.

Patients under 18: cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, severe epilepsy, terminal illness requiring end of life care, uncontrollable tntractable seizure disorder.

So it’s not a traditional retail shop or pharmacy where anyone can visit?

To enter a dispensary, you must be registered with the state, and have both a DCP-generated ID and a state photo ID.

The Bluepoint Wellness dispensary, in Branford. Advanced Grow Labs is partnering with Bluepoint on an application for a Westport location.

How do you register with the DCP?

If you have a qualifying medical condition, your physician can register you with the Department of Consumer Protection on the DCP licensing website (biznet.ct.gov). As a physician-recommended patient you then register on the state’s licensing site, which asks detailed questions. You must provide proof of residency, a passport-style photo, and a $100 application fee. If approved, the DCP issues you a patient ID card, which you use to enter the dispensary. You must register with a specific dispensary in the state. You cannot go randomly to any dispensary.

How many dispensaries are there, and where are they located?

Currently there are 9 licensed dispensaries for the 25,000+ registered patients. There is an open RFA (Request for Application) to add 3 to 10 additional dispensaries so they are more readily available to patients throughout the state. Right now, some patients drive a long distance to access a dispensary. There are 2 in Milford, and 1 each in Bethel, Branford, South Windsor, Hartford, Bristol, Uncasville and Waterbury. The DCP may award just 3 new licenses, or up to 10.

I hear a lot about Westport picking 2 to 4 dispensaries. Will that happen?

This is part of the misinformation that has confused everyone. The answer is no. Westport does not select the dispensary. Westport approves the zoning for a dispensary through P&Z. The licensing is awarded by the DCP in Hartford after reviewing all the applications received. They are hefty applications, so this takes quite a bit of time. It involves a great deal of background checks, narratives, and details from the potential operators of the dispensary, who must prove to the state that they are highly qualified to safely and securely operate a dispensary.

So why are  people talking about 4 dispensaries coming to Westport?

Again, this is misinformation. The town population in Westport is 26,000. If at all, the DCP would only approve 1 dispensary in a town of that size — and they may not select Westport at all. But if they do, it means the applicant has proven to the DCP through their application that they are qualified to safely and successfully operate a dispensary.

Compassionate Care — a medical marijuana dispensary in Bethel.

How does DCP decide on how they will award a license?

The DCP uses a scoring system. The highest score is 2000; the minimum is 1500. It is a very competitive process. Applications often end up being more than 1000 pages, with detailed answers to very in-depth questions.

Will a dispensary damage the perception of how Westport is viewed?

No dispensary in Connecticut has brought any issues or problems to the towns in which they are located. In fact, they bring consumers to the towns who spend money at locations other than the dispensaries – restaurants, shops, etc. A dispensary sells merchandise just like CVS or Walgreens. They sell product that comes in an orange dram, sealed, just a prescription from your pharmacy. Everything is highly secure.

Will a dispensary disrupt the town of Westport or bring criminal behavior?

Again, this is misinformation. There has not been one incident of a problem in any of the towns where there are dispensaries. These are just patients, just like the people going to CVS to get medicine. They want to get in and out the door. It is just like any other errand by any other person.

Will it cause odor?

You won’t even know it’s there. There are no odors emitted by the dispensary. This isn’t like Colorado or California. All the medicine is packaged in drams or sealed in plastic bags. Nothing is open. There is no looking in jars at medicine. It just like the medicine you pick up at CVS. There won’t even be a sign that says “dispensary” on it. It is a very discreet operation.

 

25 responses to “Medical Marijuana: A Dispensary Q-and-A

  1. Joseph Signorile

    I’d be interested to know two things;

    1. what happens if CT legislature approve the use of recreational marijuana in the future for CT….will your dispensary be able to participate in that, thereby morphing the purpose of the original business that was approved at the site?

    2. How can you possibly claim there has not been any crime associated or problems in towns with the dispensaries? Tha’ts a silly comment, since it would be impossible to track or know that…of course i’d be interested to see if that “fact” held true if/once a recreational component is added to whats allowed at the location.

    In short, i think most people are concerned about “trojan horsing”….now its fine, 5 years from know its a totally different worry we’re dealing with and we’ve lost control of the approval process because we approved it long ago.

    • are #2.You can just google robberies at medical marijuana dispensaries to see that this is a misleading statement.

  2. Arline P Gertzoff

    This was an excellent explanation and this site makes sense .The fear mongering is the likelihood that recreational pot dispensaries supposedly for adults will be approved and unscrupulous people will sell it to underage teenagers etc and everywheres’will smell of pot.Surely nobody would deny medical marijuana to those suffering from these horrible diseases when nothing else can ease their pain /suffering .Hopefully unethical Drs providing
    Prescriptions will not exist Ie another concern I heard.Civilized debate has to be the norm not screaming and fear mongering

  3. Thank you Dan for providing important information. Hopefully this will calm the situation.

  4. This was an excellent Q&A. Very informative and fear-allaying.
    Thank you!

  5. Dan – thanks so much for posting this information. A friend of mine who lives in Westport has just been prescribed medical marijuana for his advanced cancer. It will be an immense burden for him and his caregivers to go a dispensary in Milford or Bethel. His life is stressful enough without the long distance travel for a drug he needs for palliative care. I am hoping for a dispensary that’s closer to home. What I want to know is whether the sites being considered will be economically feasible for the dispensary operator if only medical patients can use them Also, why aren’t medical dispensaries in medical buildings? Wouldn’t that make sense? Do you really need a large space?

  6. I use the dispensary in Milford for my cancer and I am so impressed with the calm ,professionalism and discretion of the location..On New Haven Avenue.The pharmacists are so well informed and have helped me deal with many issues of the Chemo..I think it would be a great asset to have a dispensary for the patients in need in the Westport region..Medical Marijuana is PRESENT as a solution to pain and nausea.. It was prescibed to me by highly regarded Yale Doctors..If our medical higharchy sees the necessity and need and results for using patients.. then as a community we can embrace this dispensary ..Compare 1 dispensary with the number of liquor outlets there are in Westport..This debate needs to have a wider discussion.
    Alcohol is a much stronger substance than the medical marijuana.. What most people do not realize is that the Marijuana dispensed in general is not a high but a calmer and stabilizer of pain. Read up..information is everything.

  7. The proposed Bertucci’s location appears to be roughly the same square footage as the Walgreens across the Post road. Given the fact that there are only 5,000+ medical marijuana patients in all of Fairfield County out of a total population of 950,000 +, it would seem that there is a red herring here somewhere.

  8. Why has this become a P&Z location decision before the town had fully vetted the decision to have a location in Westport? And why 2 locations?

    Seems to me with concern by many residents this should have been debated or even voted on by the town before P&Z changed regs. Now it could become a lawsuit.

    Just my opinion but P&Z should have been the last step, not the first.

    • Bart is right. No wonder people are upset when they are invited to hearings AFTER the zoning regs have been amended. What happened to the P and Z subcommittee on public notice? Residents should have been consulted on WHETHER to allow ANY dispensaries in town not only on where to place two.

      • The public DID have chances to weigh in. I posted this story last May: https://06880danwoog.com/2017/05/12/high-on-pzs-list-medical-marijuana-dispensaries/

        It drew 4 comments. And virtually no one attended the public meeting.

        • Sorry, Dan but given the public outcry once the dispensary proposals were known (i.e., snail mail notices) this only proves two points: 1. that the PandZ Subcommittee on Public Notice has some work to do and 2. that 06880 may not be an effective outlet for public notice

        • Dan in this case I have to disagree. I believe I keep abreast of decisions in this town and this one got past me. But more importantly any decision by P&Z to change regs for MM should have been the last step, not the first. Now we are stuck with a P&Z decision, and th potential lawsuits.

          The decision to have MM stores in Westport is more than a planning or zoning issue. It’s a societal discussion and decision. It should have been tabled by P&Z so they did not become the judge.

          It is disappointing at best that town leaders did not step in and force the discussion and debate. Did they really believe that it would not cause concern?

          Also can someone help me understand why they approved 2 sites? What was their justification?

          • Two sites were approved on the theory that if there was only one, there was the potential for a monopoly/price gouging.

            • Really? Now P&Z makes business and marketing decisions? Will this become a defense for other businesses that want to move into Westport-P&Z needs to approve to insure competition?

              Will the MM store will be the only one in the Fairfield County area? Then why Westport? Why enter this mess?

              Wow.

  9. Thanks, Dan, for presenting David’s much-needed clarification of this often misunderstood subject.

  10. Conflict of interest anyone? No crime? Please. These dispensaries cannot deposit money in federally-insured banks so they keep a lot of cash at the site. Armed robbery is well known to be a problem in other states. Clients shopping other stores? Somehow I doubt someone afflicted with such debilitating disease would be strolling downtown Westport. Medical Marijuana dispensaries are needed and people should have access for “real” needs…….but NOT in a billboard retail location that becomes a head shop when recreational marijuana gets approved. Certainly not the 7,000 sf DXL location! BTW, CT is now halfway to approval in the legislature. Clients know where the dispensaries are, these should be in an office building with no outside signage. Let the private building owner restrict the sale to medical use only in their lease. No court can change that…as they WILL change any ordinance or restriction Westport tries to place on an approval. Once marijuana is legal any distinction between medical use or recreational probably will be considered arbitrary by the courts. Everyone needs to come out and voice your opinion Thursday night. An office building location serves the needs of the clients and also protects the majority of Westport’s citizens and our kids.

    • Phil – I completely disagree with your statement about dispensaries not having the ability to deposit money in banks. In CT, ALL dispensaries and producers have bank accounts and deposit money just like any ordinary business operates. Please don’t post comments that are not true. CT has probably has one of the most regulated and patient driven medical models in the country. The dispensaries actually operate like a traditional pharmacy setting. I have searched online to see the amount of armed robberies and I could not find much.

  11. Mike: Everything I’ve said can be borne out by anyone that takes the time to do the research. I don’t spew untruths. I’m sure CT is very thorough and conservative…but they are also going to approve recreational marijuana soon. I have NO QUALMS with medical marijuana in the proper setting, i.e. an office building. With my many comments in this blog and at ALL the hearings, I’ve always asked someone to explain why a medical marijuana dispensary that purportedly has no intention of selling recreational marijuana needs a high visibility, billboard-quality retail location on Post Road….a very expensive location as well. So far no one has answered my question. Care to try? BTW, in Colorado, with time now to review experience with legalized marijuana, they are reporting higher than expected homeless rates, school dropout rates and a higher pedestrian fatality rate from car accidents which, they hypothesize, is from people concentrating on their phone while high and walking across the street. Sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit but really unfortunate. Remember when the public was told cigarette smoking was good for you and asbestos was safe? I’m actually happy I won’t be around to deal with the fallout of legalized marijuana and the proliferation of casinos, but I am really sorry for my kids and our society as a whole. For the sake of money we are allowing the further degradation of quality of life for our most vulnerable society members, including our kids. But, no mind to that, tune up and tune out………..and deposit the $$$$$$$.

    • Phil- The Westport P&Z has approved for MEDICAL MARIJUANA. If the state allows recreational, the approved location would NOT be allowed to sell recreational marijuana. The commission would have to approve new regulations in order to allow that use. Its a different use. In terms of high visibility and the proposed locations: There are limited number of spaces available in Westport and that is why you are seeing some larger paces being proposed. I don’t believe the potential candidates want the larger space.

      • Mike: What you say is technically true, however I make my living advising retailers how to get a court to say yes when a municipality says no. Mark my words, when recreational gets approved these folks will apply to Westport for approval to sell recreational. If Westport denies them, they will sue, claiming that because of change of circumstance (legalization) to make a distinction between medical and recreational is arbitrary. My guess is they stand a very good chance of winning and Westport can do nothing about it. The money they stand to make having a semi-monopoly is a great motivator. You and I will have to foot the bill to fight them. If they are in an office building, they would have NO chance of going to court as a private lease is just that, private. Also being in an office building they are not in a retail location to sell to the public.

        As to your statement that there aren’t many spaces available….look around. There are plenty of retail spaces vacant and even more vacant office space available. There are FIVE MM applications before the P&Z. No spaces? Really?

        The applicant doesn’t want that big a space? The applicant of the DXL building is proposing a MM dispensary AND a spa for the balance of the building, that’s 7,000sf total. Yes, all under the same ownership although the corporate entity is different. Smell a rat yet? With all due respect, I think you’re being naïve.

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